Bugs Bunny made his screen debut in "Porky's Hare Hunt," which premiered on April 30, 1938. Bugs appeared, unbilled, as the nemesis of hunter Porky Pig. "Porky's Hare Hunt" was not supposed to be anything special. The story was a retread of "Porky's Duck Hunt" from the year before. Percival "Porky" Pig, Warner Bros.' biggest star at the time, was not happy that the 1937 feature had been "stolen" by "that newcomer with no talent," the rising star Daffy Duck (real name Percival Mallard). Pig insisted that the film be redone, so director Ben "Bugs" Hardaway agreed to re-make it, this time with a no-name contract player as the supporting actor.
|"Porky's Hare Hunt"|
"Porky's Hare Hunt" began filming on March 14, 1938 and right away there was tension on the set. Porky, who had been trained in Shakespeare and was known to stick strictly to the scripts, reviled the upstart who ad-libbed at every opportunity. When he complained to the director, "Bugs" Hardaway, Hardaway promised Porky that the r-r-r-rabbit" would be cut from the film as much as possible. However, Hardaway knew funny, and in the editing room he decided to keep Happy's scenes and to cut Porky's.
|Time-lapsed photography shows the make-over from Happy to Bugs|
Happy Rabbit went along with the studio, insisting on only one condition: that he be given the chance to team with his former Vaudeville partner, now going under the name of Elmer Fudd. Although Porky Pig was offered the role of "Hunter" first, he had by this time woken up and smelled the bacon. Porky didn't realize it at the time, but his greatest days of fame were behind him. When he declined, the stage was set for the greatest comedy duo since Laurel & Hardy.
"A Wild Hare" made its debut on July 27, 1940 and the rest is history.
|"Kill the Wabbit! Kill the Wabbit!" |
(What's Opera, Doc?)
At his peak, Bugs Bunny commanded star billing, script approval, and all the carrots he could eat.
|Ken Harris' marvelous SFX|
His greatest film achievement was probably the epic three-part tragedy, "Hunting Season," better known by their chapter titles: "Rabbit Fire" (1951), "Rabbit Seasoning" (1952), and "Duck! Rabbit, Duck!" (1953). This trilogy was originally written as a reunion/come-back film for Bugs' former co-star Elmer Fudd and fading star Daffy Duck. Elmer had been replaced in the hearts and minds of fans by openly gay Australian actor, Tasmanian Devil, and had actually entered semi-retirement by this time. Daffy, on the other hand, was desperate for another hit. He was ravaged by too many wild nights and two ex-wives. Although director Chuck Jones was able to draw out wonderful performances from his three leads, Bugs would comment in his autobiography (50 Years And Only One Gray Hare) that it had not been a happy set.
|"The Looney Tunes Show" in 2011|
From the 1980s, WB did not renew their contract and Bugs was relegated to parades, amusement park appearances, the odd summer stock, Vegas, and Branson. He and his friends were cast aside for younger "talents" such as The Animaniacs and Tiny Tooner Buster Bunny. From the 1990s they appeared with Michael Jordan and Brendan Frasier in live-action movies, slowly trying to crawl back into the public's eye. Then in 2010 the troupe became contract players with CARTOON NETWORK. Their situation comedy "The Looney Tunes Show" is currently in the second year of production.
Here's the (mostly fictitious) biography of Bugs Bunny "What's Up, Doc?" produced by Warner Bros in 1950, directed by Robert McKimson